New member
So Im thinking a lot about flirting these days and spinning it around all different ways...

One angle is how consenual flirting is...Im thinking about this a lot for several reasons...
Ive just had to help a woman where at work get access to higher ups in HR cause the system was failing her due to crappy supervisors and old boys network, Ive just gone thru some training to become a facilitator for sex ed classes through my church and had intensive sex harrasment training, Ive heard several personal stories from women I work that are awful and listened to a "consent" talk a poly conference... so at the sex ed training that was mostly super sex positive, they presented "circles of sexuality" and put flirting in the "bad" sexualization circle... I expressed confusion about that as I see flirting as super positive and one of the best things about being alive and interacting with other people... but one of the women said it can be really negative if its your boss flirting with you. While I totally get that 110%, the thing is I wouldnt consider that flirting. Thats creepy sexual harrassment. Just watched the hbo Anita Hill movie and the Clarence Thomas approach doesnt sem like anything Id call "flirting" I have learned to err way on the side of caution as a supervisor not to make any innuendo or overt sexual jokes, but in my petsonal life with wife and close friends I make innuendos all the time. My wife loves that as her mind is always in the gutter too. I feel good consentual flirting between people into it is a world of difference from creepy boss repeated comments where the employee is asking them to stop, I do wonder about the grey area in between... To stereotype a bit, lots of men are used to not paying attention to womens boundaries and many women are either not that great at making boundaries clear or are just beaten down by having them ignored... so how should I make sure Im being supervrespectful and aware without squashing all fun interaction? In person, eye contact and smiles seem really clear... over private messages maybe less clear.. do others use the word "flirt" for creepy vs consensual interactions? I just now question if I miss signals of when to not flirt...

Another is how i t may be different for some men vs some women in het interactions... it was just posted on another thread how a woman telling a man shes married can squash all flirting. For me as a man, my experience is 180. When I start talking to woman on the plane or at a bar, if I mention my wife at the beginning then it puts them at ease that Im not "hitting on them" and we often have a much more interesting, rich and flirty conversation that often ends with them seeming like they totally enjoyed the conversation. If I dont mention Im married there is more warriness at first that Im selling something... Do other think thats different along gender lines?

But that said I have NO idea how I would ever tell a couple women that I am flirty friends with that I really like (more than attraction - people who I my wife and I are now considering ourselves poly... i think i will wait a few months and then casually mention that my wife is dating other people... thats the least threatening way i can think to bring it up...

And another is how flirting is different or not when engaged with a potential romantic partner vs a friend... at that sex ed training several people mentioned that as a diiference -that flirting is only romantic... To me this is weird as I flirt with friends all the time and dont mean anything by it. Im mostly het but id say i even flirt with male friends too. My wife is the same... but for some people they put flirting in only the romantic box. Do most people?
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Official Greeter
Staff member
I have no idea.

I joke around about sexual matters sometimes. But I wouldn't consider that flirting, just joking around.


New member
I love to flirt also.

I think if the people you flirt with are friends, and you're unsure, it would totally be consensual-hot if you would just ask. 'You know, I'm learning a lot about consent, and I'd like to ask you how you feel about our flirty conversation. Is it okay with you, or would you prefer I not engage that way?'

Or something like that.

I don't think employees should have to ask a boss to stop. Granted, lots of people are dense, and one has to defend one's boundaries. Limits even. But anyone who is in a position of power-over needs to be extra careful with respect. Not enough men understand that there is inherent power imbalance just because of the culture we live in. If I'm alone on an elevator with a football player sized man, he's in a power over position, and he should not do anything that could be interpreted in any way as a threat. Stand in your own damn corner, eyes forward, and don't talk to me.

Same man, sitting at a bar, and I choose a barstool near him, gain his attention and flirt - that's a different situation. There's a bartender who can have my back, or I can walk away. Less power-over.


Active member
Flirting, no matter how it's interpreted, is a complex and layered business full of subtle things. How one handles, approaches, and deals with it depends a TON on that person's overall social skills, security as a person (confidence, broadly interpreted) and sensitivity to the nonverbal cues of other people.

This is why you can't just make rules about "this is ok" and "that is not ok" and expect them to always hold water.

My ex is socially stunted. He doesn't read other people's cues very well, one could say his EQ is extremely low. He needed me to SPELL OUT how he could tell if a woman was interested in him. He is the King of Awkward. This kind of thing is a terrifying minefield for him.

I am fairly socially adept, though I do blunder on occasion of course. I flirt overtly or subtly in various contexts, and enjoy the game very much. I know when to engage, when to back off, when it will result in laughs and when someone will read intent into it. I have a friend in the kink scene who once told me, "I flirt with intent." That is a very useful thing to say to someone that you've been courting as a new friend, because a huge part of flirting is knowing how much intent does or does not lie behind the interaction.

And what is flirting anyways? Those of us who are socially adept know damn well when we're flirting or when someone else is, even if no words are even spoken! Those who are less socially adept (male and female alike) have a lot of questions and don't always know.

In the elevator/football player sized dude example...I don't need him to keep his eyes front and not speak to me. DEPENDING. On what? On all the other cues. How is he dressed? In a suit or in gangsta street clothes? Are there any overt points of commonality? If I get on an elevator wearing a band t-shirt and a dude comes on the elevator with a mohawk, we had better wind up talking. We put those signs out there to ask the question, "Are you one of my tribe?" Someone from a distinctly NOT my tribe might make me feel awkward or threatened. See saggy pants/sideways ballcap dudebro. Sling thee no "YO"s in my general direction, sir! Let's move on. How are both of us in body language? If either of us is "closed off" (crossed arms, no eye contact) then that means STOP, do not initiate contact. If we are both in "I feel safe and social" mode (a generally relaxed appearance, meets eye contact briefly with perhaps a small smile, then breaks before it seems threatening) that is the "let's make small talk" cue. Go for it.

Many of us do all of this stuff without even thinking about it. We move through the world and interact with ease. Some have a much harder time.

One thing about flirtation among friends, is that because you know one another and know each other's circumstances, and have an underlying and unspoken understanding that it's all a fun social game for laughs and there is no intent behind it...potentially one can get away with a lot more harmless flirtation. It is a safe space for that game.

This changes when you have a dynamic like most monofolk exist in where a partner may feel easily threatened. My ex and I had many mutual friends. My mind is always in the gutter, but I had to be careful with my jokes. Why? I didn't want the friends to feel uncomfortable that I was crossing a line that would upset my ex who was also their friend. Yay extra layers!! Yet when I went and spent time in a social group of just my own friends who didn't know my ex (I'm talking during the marriage in this paragraph)...I could flirt to my heart's content, in a joking way. Friends in both of these groups knew I had no intent towards them, and they never applied pressure in that direction. Had my ex known the extent of my joking with my proprietary friend group however, he would have been upset. Because he assumes that every male is just waiting for their chance to jump on me, when in fact, none of them were and those male friends respected my boundaries.

EDIT: How did I know? I read their signs. I did have one friend, Phil, with whom I would NEVER jokingly flirt, because everyone knew he was constantly "on the pull" and one could count on him to read intent into pretty much anything because he was a thirsty dude. I knew not to joke like that with him, to keep my boundaries solid and offer no encouragement. Incidentally, he was described rather often as "creepy" by women in the social group.

Now in the world of internet interactions, fetlife messages, dick pics, and online dating, we women are exposed to much more attention from men who have a lack of real social skills. And we get to see how that lack sometimes masks a very dysfunctional person wrapped in layer upon layer of insecurity and awkwardness. From the easily threatened dudebro who starts fights with other men, to that Elliot guy who mowed down the sorority, we get to see how this social dysfunction plays out in the real world every time we look at the news. Unfortunately I think that signals of defensiveness, tension and fear in women draw predators out in the field.

Bottom line is that understanding and awareness of nonverbal cues (both what other people are broadcasting and what you are transmitting yourself) is critical to all sorts of interaction, flirting more than most, and what one person can get away with because he understands the signs...versus what another person cannot get away with because he doesn't speak that language...might be in fact the exact same trick under the same basic circumstances.
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New member
+1 to what Spork said :)

One thing about flirtation among friends, is that because you know one another and know each other's circumstances, and have an underlying and unspoken understanding that it's all a fun social game for laughs and there is no intent behind it...potentially one can get away with a lot more harmless flirtation. It is a safe space for that game.

There's flirting as a fun game, and there's flirting with intent. If you don't know someone well, it can be very hard to tell the difference, no matter how "skilled" you are.

I flirt with my friends all the time - guys, girls, straight, gay - and it's fun. But I've had waaaay too many experiences where I flirted with casual acquaintances and they saw intent when none was there. I've been called a tease, I've been accused of leading people on and playing games. As fun as flirting can be, it's mostly something I save for friends now - unless I actually *am* flirting with intent ;)

Ironically, flirting is one of the things I miss most about being married and monogamous. I could push things a little further before anyone started to read real intent into my flirting. Now that there is some awareness in our wider social circle that my husband and I are open, people assume I'm on the make constantly. Which means they either actively shut down flirting, or expect it to lead somewhere :cool:

That's one reason a lot of women are more flirty when they learn a guy is married - there's now an assumption that he is only flirting for fun, and has no actually interest in taking it further.


Active member
I think there are two rough 'camps' in flirting. There are the 'flirt with intent' folks who flirt to express romantic/sexual interest. (Thanks Spork for the new phrase!) They want the flirting to result in something. And there are the 'flirt with the world!' camp who flirt with all sorts of people all the time because it's fun and people are interesting. Neither are wrong but their purposes are different. This can sometimes cause problems as people interpret flirting differently based on which 'camp' they tend to be in.

I'm a 'flirt with intent' person. I don't flirt with my friends. If I'm flirting, then I'm interested. I flirt more with a partner once I'm in a sexual or romantic relationship with them. It's like once I know we both want the same thing, then it's on. But I am awful at flirting to suss out if someone is interested. I really need them to be blunt and/or drop some obvious clues or I miss it.

So when I interact with someone who is in the 'flirt with the world!' camp, it can be confusing. It's not unpleasant (generally) but until I figure out if they are an 'intent' or 'world!' type, it's a bit unsettling. Sometimes it's totally obvious to me they have no interest but are just doing their thing. But sometimes it's not.

And that's without taking into account the complexities of power imbalances and gendered differences. Some men flirt not to express interest or to have fun, but to exert power, to intrude into someone' else physical or mental space. Some women flirt not to express interest or have fun but to extract something from others, like favors or money, or time. I think this darker facet of flirting is not talked about openly enough. It's not all fun and games.


Official Greeter
Staff member
"I think this darker facet of flirting is not talked about openly enough. It's not all fun and games."

Good point opal.


I suck at flirting. :D

Well, really, I'm terrible at interpersonal games. IMO, games are something with a limited "win" potential, & that seems counterproductive to a "win/win" mentality.

I enjoy high-level, fast-paced discourse, shared data, & productive debate. When I talk with someone one-on-one or in a small knot, it's because I'm enjoying the interaction, NOT playing a game, much less trying to score some victory.

As for "flirting with intent," I empathize with Spork's ex. ;) As one girlfriend told me, "You are a total brick." :cool: If I feel that there's some mutual attraction going on, & particularly if it recurs over multiple meetings, I'm unafraid to mention it. Of course, this has often resulted in someone never speaking to me again, but on the other hand it's also gotten some surprised "wow, you really ARE that dense" looks that led to deep discussions & further intimacy... & a few times has led to getting my feet kicked out from under me & my clothes ripped off. Literally. :)


Active member
A difficulty I have as a woman in the world of dating (which is largely the world of "flirting with intent") is trying to figure out which potential partners are ok with moving fast, or need to move fast, versus the ones who need time. THAT is the unspoken that I have the most difficulty with.

I'm a woman, and I want a man sexually. However we met, we've been doing "dates." So long as things continue to go positively, I want to continue to see him. I have no idea how to suss if a guy is the type that if I move too fast, even if the sex is awesome, he'll ditch me shortly after. Because he only wanted the conquest and doesn't want to let me feel anything for him, or because he thinks I'm too easy to keep...I have no idea what is going on in that mentality. I don't feel a need to nix something if I'm enjoying myself in it. But I've known more than one man, where I made my interest known and let it proceed to the bedroom pretty quick, and although I know he had a fantastic time, he felt a need to blow me off pretty shortly afterwards.

Well, I was the fool for giving him sex without giving it TIME to form FEELINGS.


Then there are men who say that if sex hasn't happened by the third date, they're done and moving on. Clearly she isn't into them. Clearly they'll never get any. Clearly she has put them in the "friend zone."

Can't be upfront and honest about intentions, can't "play games" really there's just no one right approach to all of this. That's MY minefield.

So I was trying to figure all this crap out in my dating endeavors last year, before I hit saturation with the group I'm with...and I decided I needed to give subtle green lights and then wait for the guy to take action, to "chase" a bit, to set the pace. After all, if only he knows how long you need to know each other before you can have sex and still respect a girl, well, I guess he's going to have to be the one to move things along? So I'd been seeing my Sadist, first at social events...then at play parties...we ended up being play partners for impact scenes, but he continued to keep his hands to himself, and a certain careful distance. I told him in one of our text convos, that I'd had a sex dream about him. He didn't have much to say to that. (Can the light get any greener??) Finally we ended up speaking face to face about some sexual subject matter and I got the sense that ok, he IS interested, and I literally texted him that night, "If you're waiting for my have it." That's what he HAD been waiting for.

I find that flirting for fun..."flirt with the world" flirting of double meanings and easy. But acting with intent, let alone moving pieces on the game board, is fraught with potential difficulty. Being extroverted and socially savvy hasn't helped me there very much.


New member
My flirting minefield is two-fold:

I am really only interested in women. I am bi, but only marginally--I gravitate heavily towards females. And, women flirt with me ALL the time. So, what is the minefield?

-It is almost impossible to tell if they're flirting with intent, as mentioned above, or if they're flirting with no intent, because I am a woman, it's "cool" to flirt with women, and they're not interested in anything other than attention that comes from "hawt" girl-flirting.

I'm generally considered attractive, but I am also a little alternative, which I think gives off the impression, to some woman, that I'm "okay" to flirt with as kind of a daring-do, when they might not do so with someone more conventional looking (it certainly seems to give that impression to swinger couples, who hit on me all the frickin' time at work, regardless of how stupidly inappropriate that is).

Super frustrating.


New member
Interesting thoughts. Sorry my initial post was so long, its just weird how multifaceted and different people's perspectives on this are. Mostly I dont flirt with intent, I just I flirt to be friendly with a whole range of people. But I try to do so carefully and respectively. I DONT flirt with my employees and I do think that is creepy or coercive. I would just use another word for that when its not respectful in tone or not two-way, but then again I dont know if Ive ever missed signals. I do think its hard sometimes to tell who is flirting with intent and who isnt... I got that wrong with someone recently and felt pretty stupid. But I guess it never hurts to clarify or be direct cause then you know, right?

Anyway I think flirting for fun is one of those great things about being alive and human...